This weekend I was struck by the changing attitudes of parenting and wondered if we are simply accelerating the plight of our young. When I was a child it was commonly said that there was no such thing as a bad child only a bad parent, somewhere we lost this idea.
In today’s culture of awarding medals and certificates for ‘taking part’ we seem incapable of acknowledging failure, it is as if it does some tremendous psychological harm. To be a good parent today you need do very little more than give birth. Social media is awash with sycophantic praise for anyone that copes with the strain of being a parent. There are streams of comments reflecting how young mums are struggling to arrange parties or gifts on a low income, mostly they are written from hangovers.
Do you ‘give up’ your social life when you have children? I guess the answer is mostly yes but that misses the obvious which is that you ‘give up’ voluntarily, this is a concious decision. This drive to label all parents as good parents means that we are driven to labelling our children. What once would have been a difficult child now has a disorder and that is important because society can use that tag to take any responsibility away from parents. In the past when you had boisterous or difficult children you accepted your lot and got on with it, indeed I know many parents that still do.
Using labels though means that we have reversed the old saying and it is now ‘there is no such thing as bad parents, just bad children’ and that is sad. In excusing poor parenting in this manner we are perpetuating it. When children do not ‘perform’ as expected they must have a disorder that needs medicating and that prevents young parents seeking the assistance they need. There should be no shame in a young parent asking for education, it should be encouraged and advice offered freely. But our culture of not admitting failings means that this does not happen, instead we classify and label the child.
There are still some great, and heartwarming, examples of parenthood. I am always cheered to see parents of all ages on the beach with children enjoying that simplest, but often rarest, of gifts a parent’s time. Children have been fascinated by sand forever and will remain so forever more it isn’t an expensive or difficult treat. But the other side of the sea wall I see parents shouting at children, there is no need for that. I see tantrums performed for ill equipped parents that illicit swearing and toothless, but offensive, threats.
We must remember that the foundations that we lay are what well rounded individuals are based on and that is our future.